Need a Little Company Ch. 03bySFCTaleSpinner©
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the movies or characters from the "Cabin Fever" franchise. All "Cabin Fever" movies and their characters belong to their respective owners. I don't make any money from the writing of this story.
No sex in this one, just plot. But don't worry, the next chapter should be another hot one.
The tears streamed silently down Marcy's cheeks as the glossy black casket descended into the earth. While members of Karen's immediate family broke down in grief, Marcy maintained a stoic dignity.
A stereo set up near the grave played a heartwrenching female folk band rendition of "Too-ra Loo-ra", a song that Karen's maternal grandfather apparently used to lull her off to sleep with when she was very young.
It was a tragic outcome to a long, painful battle against the horrible disease she'd contracted in those backwater woods. After more than two weeks in intensive care on a course of aggressive antibiotics, Karen finally seemed like she was on the mend. But within a week her condition began to deteriorate rapidly once more. Within 36 hours of the disease's resurgence she had lapsed into a coma. Within another 12, she was gone.
Everyone else had mercifully been spared the brunt of the contagion. Bert had begun to show lesions and weeping sores by the time he'd found help. But even he had received treatment early enough to prevent the virus from doing serious organ damage. He'd been discharged from hospital two weeks ago, having lost a frightening amount of weight.
Marcy, Paul and Jeff were all started on the antibiotic medication immediately after they were rescued. Marcy's bloodwork later revealed that she, too, had been infected. But seeing as she never developed symptoms, it seemed all but certain that her infection had been cured before it had a chance to do any damage. She had no idea whether Paul or Jeff had tested positive. She hadn't seen or spoken to any of the group since they were rescued. Until today.
One by one, those closest to Karen stepped up to the edge of the grave and tossed a white rose onto the coffin. Marcy dabbed her moist eyes and cheeks with a small, white handkerchief as her turn approached. She stood up and walked over to the officiator, who was holding a basket full of the flowers.
"Thank you," Marcy softly acknowledged, as she collected a rose.
Pausing for a moment by the grave side, Marcy sighed. Her fingers absently stroked the stem of the rose, hesitating to commit that all too final gesture of casting it into the cold, dark hole for eternity.
"I'm sorry," she whispered to the memory of her departed friend, perhaps even her ghost, before finally letting the rose slip from her fingers.
Even if they'd overheard her, nobody would've understood what she really meant. Nobody except Paul.
Marcy turned and made her way down the aisle, vacating the grave side for the next mourner who wished to pay tribute: Ella, another of Karen's college friends. Behind the seats other attendees were beginning to gather in clusters, but Marcy drifted into an open area some distance away from any of them. Now that the funeral was all but over, she needed some time to gather her thoughts; to process the surprising impact the service had had upon her.
An hour ago, life had seemed so simple. For all its grief and regret, it was nonetheless simple.
She had made up her mind that she would have an abortion. It would be a quick, simple solution, and then she could put this whole awful ordeal behind her once and for all and try to get on with her life.
But then when she saw the coffin, when Karen's death became real to her - suddenly things didn't seem so simple anymore.
There was this part in the eulogy where the priest said, "Let us rejoyce for the life Karen led: a happy life surrounded by her loving family and friends." It really struck a chord with Marcy.
When Karen first showed signs of the infection, all her friends, Marcy included, turned on her and banished her from their comfortable cabin to a lonely little toolshed. Instead of comforting Karen when she was at her worst, Marcy was elsewhere finding diversion in some casual sex.
Throughout the funeral, the tragedy of it all resonated with Marcy. Such a bright young life cut short. Yet at the same time, there was the stirrings of a new life within her womb. A life spawned from the seed of Karen's would-be boyfriend, no less. Quite possibly, the child Marcy was carrying may well have been a child that Karen herself may have one day had with Paul, had she lived.
There seemed to be a cosmic, perhaps even divine balance to it all: one life being made in that cabin at the same time another was slipping away just outside. Having to carry the child almost seemed like it was the due Marcy had to pay for her appallingly selfish behavior. She began to suspect that if she didn't play her designated part in this exchange, if she didn't bring this child in to the world, her conscience would never truly be clear.
She still didn't want to have a baby. But now she felt like she *had* to see this pregnancy through.
On top of everything else going on right now, this realization was the last thing she needed. Marcy was traumatized from her own brush with death, still tender from her breakup with Jeff and in mourning for her best friend. Looking forward to a fresh start was the only thing she had to keep her going. Now that it seemed her immediate future would be consumed with the burdens of pregnancy, it felt like her whole world had just come crashing down.
She felt so alone right now. Nobody knew about the baby, nobody knew what she was going through. All she wanted was for somebody to hold her and tell her everything would be all right.
Ordinarily, she would've turned to Karen or even Jeff for solace in such a crisis. But Karen was dead and Jeff wasn't welcome here. Word had gotten out about his cowardly escape from the cabin - how he ran away like a little girl, leaving Karen, Paul and Marcy to rot. Karen's family were apparently livid with him, as were most of the people grieving here today. Marcy asked herself whether she would even want Jeff's hollow comfort right now, considering how he abandoned her before. She even surprised herself when she realized the answer was, "yes." Things were *that* bad.
Dabbing the steadily-flowing tears from her eyes with a handkerchief, Marcy raised her head for the first time since leaving the graveside and surveyed the cemetery landscape.
A lot of familiar faces; a lot more unfamiliar ones. Across the throng of black-clothed mourners, she spied Paul standing with his parents and younger brother. Karen had long been a friend to not only Paul, but his whole family, so they had all attended together. The very sight of him made her squirm.
He was the "old shame". It was bad enough that she had his child inside her. Seeing him again, today of all days, was about as uncomfortable a situation as could be. Of course, Marcy knew that Paul was sure to come to the funeral, but she still wasn't prepared to see him again. Yet, even with all the awkwardness between them, even with the way her stomach sank when she looked at him, Marcy had to admit to herself that she'd even welcome some comfort from Paul right now, were it an option.
Part of her cursed her own foolishness for even thinking such a thing. "Getting some 'comfort' from Paul was how you got into this mess," she reminded herself. But another part of her couldn't help but admit that those last couple of hours in the cabin with Paul *were* actually quite pleasant, considering the circumstances. He was, by nature, a kind guy and even though he was clearly reluctant at first, he had shown her a great deal of tenderness during their brief affair.
A fresh wave of tears spilled from Marcy's eyes. "I could sure use some of that tenderness now," she thought to herself. She recalled how, when Bert and Jeff had left them, Paul sought her out in her bedroom, with only the purest intentions of raising her spirits. She lamented how unlikely he was to make such an overture to her now.
The more she dwelled on it, the more she managed to convince herself that she was wrong, that kindness like Paul's wasn't so easily turned off. Perhaps it was her knack for reading people, or perhaps her desperation was blinding her to reality, but Marcy suspected that there was compassion for her in Paul. It just needed to be coaxed out from behind the resentment.
Almost all at once the gathered mourners began to migrate towards the cemetery parking lot. Karen's parents were hosting a reception back at their house. Marcy, like most of the out-of-towners, had been given a ride to the funeral from their motel by locals. Karen's next door neighbors had driven Marcy and Ella to the funeral. It was understood that they would likewise ferry the girls to the reception afterwards.
Marcy met up with Trevor and Fay, the neighbors, beside their silver Volkswagon. Ella straggled for a few minutes, but nobody minded waiting. If nothing else, it gave the congestion in the parking lot a chance to clear.
The drive to Karen's family home was understandably quiet. Marcy used the quiet time to figure out precisely how she could appeal to Paul's softer side. Her main obstacle, of course, would be the fact that Paul was probably determined to ignore her so he could just pretend their fling had never happened. She would need to grab his attention.
The street was already crowded with parked cars on both sides by the time they arrived. Trevor pulled in to his own garage and together he, Fay, Ella and Marcy walked over to the two-story house next door.
It was uncomfortably crowded the instant Marcy stepped through the front door. Crowded, but also disturbingly quiet for such a large gathering. For a while, Marcy was intimidated by the thought of putting her plan into action around so many people, but she soon decided that the crowds would only make Paul easier to coerce.
She spent about fifteen to twenty minutes making the obligatory "Hello, how are you?"s and other solemn small talk to acquaintances and strangers alike, frequently keeping tabs on her quarry. It wouldn't be seemly for a friend as close as Paul to leave quickly, but all the same, Marcy didn't want to risk him suddenly disappearing. She spied him numerous times across crowded rooms, but not once did he look over at her. As she suspected would be the case, he was obviously trying to ignore her.
Then she made her move. Paul had just finished a brief conversation with some other guy. The time was right.
Calmly moving along a seemingly organic path through the room, she snuck up on him from behind his right shoulder. If he didn't see her coming, he couldn't try to escape.
"Hi," she greeted with no false vulnerability in her voice. As hopeful as she was, Marcy was well aware that her chances of receiving any kindness from Paul weren't good.
She made sure to stand so close to him that he couldn't possibly pretend he hadn't heard her, which isn't to say he didn't try for a second or two.
"Hi," he curtly replied, turning to make eye contact if only for an instant. His polite manner only barely failed to mask the coldness he felt towards her.
"How are you?" she asked.
"Fine," he replied after a tense pause.
"Good. That's good," Marcy said quietly, nodding to herself. "I never heard from you after we left the cabin. I was surprised you never called." Of course, in reality, Marcy had thanked god every day that had passed without a phone call from Paul. She'd hoped that he'd been savvy enough to recognize the no-strings-attached nature of their dalliance. But she knew that hooking up with nice-guy types like him always came with the risk that they'd try to turn a bit of fun into an unwanted romance.
Paul twitched noticeably at the mention of him calling her.
"Really?" he replied, revealing how much of an effort it was for him to remain composed with the quiver in his voice. Marcy could tell that he was utterly appalled by the suggestion that he was obligated to call her. That was good; it meant that Paul was off-balance now, which meant that her plan was working. From here on, her fragile appearance became an act, because in reality, she began to feel more confident and in control with every passing second.
"Well, yeah," Marcy said. "After the way we took care of each other when things got really bad, I just assumed you'd want to check up on me."
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Paul snarled at her in a whisper, turning to stare her seriously in the eye for the first time.
"Oh, okay. So that's how it is, hmm?" Marcy replied with a quivering lower lip, giving the impression that she was mere seconds from a complete emotional breakdown. "I was good enough when you needed to feel good in the cabin, but now that you're finished with me..." she began, raising her voice more and more with each word until she was almost loud enough for her tirade to be heard by everyone around.
"Shit!" Paul cringed in sheer disbelief, gesturing at her with his hands to "please shut up." Gazing at him with misty, doe-like eyes, she grudgingly obliged - for the moment. Looking around, he said to her, "Let's find somewhere we can talk." Peering through an archway that led into the house's dining area, he soon noticed a french door that seemed promising. "Alright, come with me," he ordered her in a hushed voice.
Slowly and calmly so as not to draw attention to themselves, they navigated their way across the rooms, between the throng of mourners. After the first few steps Paul actually turned around to make sure Marcy was indeed following him. The risk of her flying off the handle and airing their dirty little secret, instead of talking her issues out with him in private clearly had him worried.
Despite her sniffles and distraught appearance, Marcy was secretly delighted that Paul had taken her bait. It was a calculated, but dangerous strategy. She didn't want their sordid affair to become public any more than he did. On top of everything else, the scorn she'd face from her friends and family if they knew what she'd done while Karen laid dying would be too much to bear. Luckily, he had, as she'd hoped, cut her off before she'd said too much. All the same, her heart was pounding with fear. Or was it excitement?
She'd managed to get Paul's attention and that was a victory of sorts. But she knew she was now headed for a fight, and she really, really wasn't in the mood for that right now. Still, she was confident that if she handled it just right, Paul would accept her and be there for her. It may not have made any sense, but with each passing minute of drifting through that maudlin funeral atmosphere she'd grown more and more desperate; desperate for someone to be there for her, even if it was just for a little while.
Upon reaching the french door, they stepped out into the back yard. There were a couple other guests at the far end of the yard; too far to overhear a normal conversation. All the same, Paul led Marcy over toward a corner near the back fence, just to be safe. Now finally alone, they stood, a couple of yards apart, in tense silence. Eventually, Paul turned to Marcy and glared at her with a scowl of outrage on his face.
"What?" Marcy asked, sounding offended by his attitude.
"Are you fucking insane?" he asked in a calm voice.
Marcy looked horrified.
"We're at a fucking funeral, for crying out loud and you just start..." Paul said.
"What the fuck was I supposed to do?" Marcy cut him off. "It's been a month, Paul, and I haven't heard anything from you. I didn't know if you were alive or dead. I... not a single fucking word?" she ranted in a hushed voice.
At first, Paul just shook his head in disbelief.
"I don't believe this. You can't be serious! Did you really think I would call you after... what happened in that cabin?" he asked.
"Yes, Paul!" Marcy stated, firmly. "I did! That's what a considerate guy does after he sleeps with a woman; he calls her! *Especially* if he knows she's been exposed to a motherfucking flesh eating disease and he doesn't know if she's gonna live or die! He calls, to make sure she's okay, to let her know he cares about her. He doesn't just use her and then act like..."
"Oh, that is bullshit! That is bullshit!" Paul angrily cut her off. "I used you? You were the one who fucking used *me*!" he insisted. "You came on to *me*!"
"I used you?" Marcy repeated after a tense pause. Her eyes bore a look of shock, her lower lip was quivering. "Well, that's strange because the way I remember it, you were pretty fucking into it."
Paul had no retort for that. He couldn't deny that he had succumbed to the temptations of Marcy's voluptuous body when they were presented to him. He couldn't deny that he displayed just as much raw passion in their sexual encounters as Marcy. Nor could he deny that, on a purely physical level, he'd found each of those encounters incredibly pleasurable.
His face began to flicker between looks of anger and looks of shame like a light with bad wiring, while he staggered around in a meaningless pattern. It seemed like half of him just wanted to run away from this argument, while the other half wanted to slap Marcy for the confronting thoughts she was bringing up. Marcy herself looked to be on the verge of bawling her eyes out, yet at the same time was watching Paul keenly, waiting for him to lash out at her again.
Eventually, he spoke in a calm voice.
"You... You *have* to know that it was wrong, right? You have to know that coming on to me... that having sex, while Karen was outside *dying*, was fucking messed up, don't you?" he asked.
Marcy looked at him incredulously.
"Well of course I know it was messed up, Paul!" she replied. Now the tears began to flow thick and heavy. "What kind of bitch do you take me for? It's been eating me up alive what we were doing while Karen was out there sick. It was a stupid mistake! I don't know why it happened! But it did happen, and it was a mistake we made together!"
The accusation in Paul's eyes faded as Marcy pointed these things out. He was the pot in this mess, he had no right to call the kettle black.
"God, everything's just so messed up," Marcy continued, turning away from Paul and staring at the empty sky beyond the yard's back fence as she wiped her eyes. "All the questions, all the blood tests, the worry... and now Karen's dead," she said, choking up at the mention of Karen's name. "And all these people who want to talk about it and keep telling you that it's okay now. But it isn't! They don't know. None of them know. I can't tell anyone that we spent the last hour in the cabin having sex."
She was starting to become incomprehensible at times because she was weeping so heavily.
"I thought at least you would understand. But even you just want to treat me like a piece of shit!" Marcy told him.
As much as she wanted to turn to see if that remark brought a twinge of guilt to Paul's face, she didn't. She knew that if it looked like she was pandering for sympathy, she was almost certain not to get it.
"Oh, who am I kidding? I am shit!" she declared. "I'm sorry, Paul. Sorry... for everything."
Whatever Marcy was holding back, she let loose now. Her entire body shook as she wept openly. She could feel herself beginning to slip into a terrifying emotional pit of guilt, grief and worry about the future, particularly regarding her pregnancy. She'd let virtually every bad thought that had been stocked up in her mind loose, using them as ammunition to win Paul's sympathies. But she was far from immune to the poignant reality of her own words; admitting her failings and vulnerabilities cut into her just as deeply as they did to Paul. She hadn't anticipated just how painful the argument was going to be.